April 11th, 2008
09:27 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 4/11/08

Breaking news from the campaign trail.  Sen. Barack Obama is responding tonight to criticism over comments he made days ago.  He called some Pennsylvanians who have lost their jobs "bitter."  Both Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain pounced on the story calling Obama elitist and condescending.  What impact will this have on the Pennsylvania primary?  We’ll talk to the best political team on television. 

We’ll also have the latest from Eldorado and the investigation into Warren Jeffs’ polygamous sect.  Investigators removed 292 boxes of documents, personal letters, journals, family photographs and dozens of computers and hard drives from the Yearn For Zion Ranch.  

We’ve devoted a lot of time to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints this week but they’re not the only people who practice polygamy. Tonight we’re going to talk to two women who are in a polygamous marriage and they don’t look anything like Jeffs’ followers.  They live in the suburbs, wear contemporary clothes and made the choice to have a plural marriage. 

Erica Hill is anchoring tonight.  Be sure to check her out on our new live web camera from the 360° studio. That’ll start at 945p ET.  LINK TO THE BLOG CAMERA

We’ll start posting comments to this blog at 10p ET and stop at 11p ET.

Filed under: Live Blog
April 11th, 2008
08:43 PM ET

The Polygamist way of life

Editor's note: Joe X is a polygamist living in Utah. He has three wives and 22 children. We asked him about his way of life: 

I was born into a fundamentalist Mormon culture, meaning I grew up in a polygamous household. I had 4 mothers and 18 siblings. I did not grow up with an expectation that I would live that way.


Vicki, seen here, is one of Joe's three wives

I went to public school and was exposed to other points of view.  My first wife had grown up in a polygamous family as well and after a lot of personal reflection we decided it was a calling for us.

Our second wife showed interest in coming into our family.  She was working with my first wife and they developed a friendship.  You have to get your wife’s input and approval before a plural marriage happens.  It’s a family, and the family has to come first.  She wasn’t just marrying me she was marrying my wife and I.

My experience is very different from life in the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS.  My wives have chosen to marry me, they were not forced into it.  The abuse that is alleged to be happening in Warren Jeffs’ polygamous sect is inexcusable and, if it’s true, is not representative of the lifestyle and principle I believe in. 

– Joe "X" 

Editor's note: Joe X has asked us to not identify his last name because polygamy is illegal.  His wives Vicki and Valerie will be on AC360 Friday night at 10p ET.

Filed under: Polygamy
April 11th, 2008
08:21 PM ET

Erica's News Note: It’s a random one

We are closer to knowing who the young woman is at the center of this raid on a Texas polygamous sect’s compound. Frankly, the more details that emerge, the creepier this becomes.

The accusations of abuse are unbelievable. How does this happen? How does it become OK? And how bad did it have to get for this girl to risk her life calling for help?

I love CNN Heroes. So many of these people have become an inspiration to me and today, I am adding another one to the list. Education is very important to me. It opens so many doors and has the power to change lives like few other things, which is just one reason why Viola Vaughn’s story struck me. I’ll let her fill you in on the tragedy that rocked her family… and ultimately helped Viola save thousands.

My dog, Jake, is a mutt (my favorite breed) – he’s Australian shepherd, husky and probably a million other things. They all add up to the sweetest face, kindest eyes, and biggest heart; he is truly a love bug. He also weighs more than 75 pounds, has a deep, loud bark, dark coloring and to many people on the street (and many a delivery person at our front door), Jake looks like a dog ready to rip them to shreds.

This is probably the last thing that would happen with the JMan. Yes, there’s a good chance he’d jump like a kangaroo with excitement, try to hug you, nuzzle up for a scratch and give you a slobbery kiss… but I’ve never seen Jake harm anyone.

Jake – and plenty of other dogs out there – may simply be a victim of “big black dog syndrome”, and it may be why animal shelters have a tougher time placing big, black dogs… and why more of them are euthanized. I find it truly sad. In my experience, the bigger the dog, the kinder, gentler and more loving they tend to be. Yes, there are exceptions, but for me, that hasn’t been the case.

And lastly, a couple of quick notes for you… Michael Ware’s full interview with Gen. David Patraeus will be posted on the 360 site; I know many of you have asked for it.

We need your Webby votes! If you’ve already voted for us, thank you – but you’re not done. Tell your friends, tell your family… hey, why not make a new friend this weekend and get them to vote for us? Try this for an icebreaker, “Hey, have you checked out the 360 Blog lately?” Guaranteed to work or your money back.*

– Erica Hill, AC360° Correspondent

* this is the asterisk where I tell you there is no hope of getting paid if you’re shot down using that line at happy hour

Filed under: Erica Hill
April 11th, 2008
06:48 PM ET

Campus Rage: Mom saw warning signs in son

It started with an e-mail. In fact, it was the last of more than 600 e-mails CNN received in the wake of the Northern Illinois University shootings on Valentine’s Day. But this one stood out to me.


A frustrated and clearly anguished mother of a teenager was telling us she could relate to the massacre. That’s because her own son planned a school shooting when he was a high school junior in Idaho.

I immediately contacted Elaine Sonnen and spoke to her for at least an hour. I was immediately fascinated by her story - she saw the warning signs in her son, Richard, and was able to stop him from killing his classmates. But she still worried that he could be violent if he stopped taking his medication.

Still, there was little she could do because he was now over 18 and living on his own. She wanted to talk, but we knew the story would not be complete without hearing from Richard himself.

“Do you think he would talk to us?” I asked her. She agreed to call him and find out.


April 11th, 2008
05:33 PM ET

Inside the FLDS raid - what investigators took from the compound

I am pouring over newly released lists of evidence taken from the compound and its clear Texas authorities felt they needed to cast a wide net in the investigation of alleged child sexual and physical abuse.


Law enforcement officials converge outside the temple walls at the YFZ Ranch in West Texas.

They took personal letters, journals and photographs - anything that seemed to have a name on it.

They took dozens of computers and hard drives.

They took white clothing belonging to almost 70 men and women. Why clothes? Authorities won’t say.

But they also collected medical records of several women named "Sarah." This appears to be an attempt to find and identify the still missing 16-year-old wife and mother whose phone call started this massive raid.

Some other items that caught my eye:

– A cyanide poisoning document
– School records
– A photograph of a girl named Sarah
– Social Security and W2 forms
– Correspondence with Warren Jeff
– Fire arms training documents

– David Mattingly, AC360° Correspondent

Filed under: David Mattingly • Polygamy
April 11th, 2008
05:04 PM ET

Why isn't Sen. John McCain responding to Latino bloggers?

It's no big secret that a lot of Latinos like Senator John McCain. In fact, rumor has it that some Latinos will actually switch parties to vote for the Arizona senator if their candidate of choice isn't selected as the Democratic presidential nominee.

Sen. John McCain

Latinos like McCain's military service and the fact that McCain's own son is serving in Iraq. With so many Latino families in his same shoes, it's no wonder they feel a kindred spirit with the man.

McCain's efforts to try and get Congress to reform the immigration issue did not go unnoticed either. Regardless of how imperfect the proposed legislation was, it was more than what most members of Congress have done.

The fact that he's from a border state and is intimately familiar with the Latino culture doesn't hurt either.

So why isn't McCain reaching out to Latinos, especially if he's been invited?


Filed under: Raw Politics
April 11th, 2008
04:22 PM ET

Finally, Taking Care of the Innocent Victims

I am grateful today to so many individuals and groups. Thank you to the State of Texas and the city of El Dorado for having the guts to go in and intervene in behalf of the children of YFZ.

For too long, government has turned a blind eye to the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and its activities. Abuse to children inside this destructive group has gone on for years without any repercussions.

Many of us feared that the raid would go down poorly as in the 1953 raid on Shortcreek, but El Dorado authorities continue to handle it well. I wish that Arizona and Utah would step up and do the same.

I also am grateful to the women who have come forward. People like Elissa and Teresa Wahl and this young girl from inside the YFZ compound deserve our praise. Others who have been a voice for the children—women such as Flora Jessop, Susan Schmidt, Carolyn Jessop, Linda, Elaine, Lori, Doris…so many more who have stepped forward…all of these deserve our applause not our criticism.

Thank you all for speaking out for the kids.

In my opinion, the FLDS is a criminal organization masquerading as a religion.

Our founding fathers intended for us to have freedom of religion but not outside the laws of the land. Freedom of religion should never mean freedom to abuse.

The FLDS is an organized group whose crimes - often against children - include rape, incest, sodomy, assault and battery. It must be stopped—not “sweetly” swept aside as freedom of religion.

The core issue here is not polygamy - I, by no means support polygamy. It is the habitual abuse of innocent underage victims. The time has arrived to take care of these innocent victims.

– Kathy Jo Nicholson, Former FLDS member

Filed under: Polygamy
April 11th, 2008
04:14 PM ET

Jami Floyd: Prosecution or persecution?

Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs is behind bars but his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is going strong, with 10,000 members. This, despite 165 years of intolerance for these people who engage in a very different form of faith.

That’s why the latest raid in Texas raises the question of religious freedom. The FLDS counsels young women to “give themselves to their husbands.” And we all know these folks are far from your run of the mill congregation.

Authorities claim that this latest raid comes on the heels of a 16-year-old girl claiming she’d been married to a 50-year-old man. In Texas, a girl that young can’t marry, even with her parents’ permission. But so far, the girl hasn’t turned up. And hundreds of women and children have been rousted from their homes.

If a crime was committed, by all means prosecute. But to target religious people for practicing the tenets of their faith, well, in this lawyer’s opinion that’s not prosecution, it’s persecution.

– Jami Floyd/"In Session" Anchor and 360° Contributor
Read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session”

Filed under: In Session • Jami Floyd • Polygamy
April 11th, 2008
01:44 PM ET

Mike Huckabee: A security threat?

It's 6:45am and I’m standing at the Little Rock airport in Arkansas, after covering potentially dangerous weather for the past two days. But it’s a great respite from the bombs and bullets of Baghdad. I’m usually overseas for the network; recently I’ve been working here in the U.S.

Mike Huckabee

Between the four of us - producer Alex Walker, photojournalist Ric Blackburn, video editor Greg Bowman and I. Apparently, only one of us actually had our eyes open because Alex said, “Hey, it’s Mike Huckabee.”

We all looked up from our BlackBerries and walking directly towards us was the former U.S. presidential candidate.

Alex was quick to cut him off - introducing himself and then us. At this point, my jaw is on the floor – because Huckabee is just strolling towards security alone. For the past six months, I’ve been overseas watching this man give speeches in front of thousands with loads of security.

Alex quickly snapped into reporting mode.


Filed under: Raw Politics
April 11th, 2008
11:53 AM ET

West Point – Eastern Faith

Five years after seeing images of the US military inside Iraqi cities, the idea of observing the US Army inside a mosque in Jersey City, New Jersey seemed novel. 

A year ago, I saw an article in a newspaper about West Point cadets visiting a mosque and other areas in multi-ethnic Jersey City. I was too late to do the story, West Point authorities said. After a year of waiting, the opportunity came up again.

It was called “Winning the Peace”  -  30 cadets touring a mosque, a Hindu Temple, the 9/11 memorial in Jersey City; a synagogue, and a Coptic Christian church.

The most interesting aspect of the two-day shoot was the interaction between the cadets and the Islamic faithful. Some of the conversation was over dinner, Egyptian cuisine. One cadet asked if the shaving of a beard of an Islamic man meant he was more likely to be a suicide bomber. The response: “No, the beard had no relevance.”

One Muslim woman asked a female cadet if she knew, “Why do Muslim women cover up their heads?” The cadet responded, “I assume to be modest."  The woman explained it is to show herself only to her husband. She said at home she would not have the hajib headwrap on her body.


Filed under: Faith • Islam
« older posts